May 28, 2020
to prepare for an unsupported hunt, especially when it comes to food. For the hunts when everything you need to survive is on your back, we asked a group of experts what their favorite meals are and why.
Every hunter or guide we asked has their own unique approach to food. Through their years of experience, they’ve figured out what works the best for them. Read on to get some meal prep ideas for your next hunt.
KUIU's Guide & Outfitter Director
Other than being cold and wet, nothing sucks more on the mountain than being hungry. I’ve tried every backpacking food fad out there. From the ultralight minimalist approach, to the latest health kick, to counting every calorie and ounce—I’ve gone away from all that. I don’t worry about whether it has 150 calories per ounce or not, but I still pack as many calories into every meal as I can. I mainly take food that tastes good to me.
The most impactful thing I’ve done over the years is streamlined my gear to the lightest and best products on the market. I only take what I need, all the extra stuff to account for every “just in case scenario” is left out. This weight and space savings has allowed me to bring more food with me, yet still maintain optimal pack weight to sustain the length of my hunt.
I break my food down into separate bag allotments for each day. If I get bored on a hillside glassing or stuck in my tent waiting out a storm to pass, I snack. When I say snack, I’m a true fat kid at heart and if I didn’t do this, I’d seriously eat a week’s worth of food in two days. Here is my typical day on the mountain meal break down:
- 1 Mountain House or Peak Refuel breakfast meal with 2 tortillas.
- 1 blueberry or cinnamon raisin bagel with Justin’s Chocolate Hazel nut butter, and strawberry jelly.
- 1 sandwich baggie of a mix we call Mountain Crack (1/3 part coastal berry trail mix, 1/3 chocolate covered almonds, and 1/3 Peanut Butter M&M’s)
- 2-3 Bars (Snickers, KIND, homemade or Mountain Berry CLIF Shot Blocks.)
- 1 Mountain House or Peak Refuel Dinner meal supplemented with a pack of ramen or pack of instant mash potatoes mix.
- To help with water intake, especially when it’s been pumped out of a dirty seep on the side of the mountain, is to add drink mix. My favorite is Wilderness Athlete’s Hydrate and Recover, Berry Blast Flavor.
KUIU's Chief Hunting Officer
My philosophy on backpacking food has changed over the years through trial and error. The food combinations that work well with my body during exertion levels have replaced the obsession for the highest caloric foods. I like meals that taste good and give a little variety. Each year I do multiple extended unsupported hunts, sometimes back-to-back. Being able to enjoy my food intake has become more important.
My meal plans are based around what I can comfortably carry for the duration. For me, anything more than 2 pounds per day on a full backpack hunt is negligible. Basically any more than that and my normal gear requires too much exertions to pack it (based on 10 days carrying everything). I never want to have more than 20 pounds of food in my pack. If we are expecting a food drop half way, I try to add some light high-calorie items to each five day food kit.
Each day is packed into its own bag and so I know what is available. I also ration my food on a hunt. If a day is spent glassing and moving very little I try to only eat what I need, which leaves a little more for high exertion days.
The one thing to remember is you will be working off a caloric deficit. There is simply no way to carry enough food to make up for what you are burning. Mentally preparing for being hungry is important. I always recommend trying everything you are taking on a hunt before you get there. The middle of nowhere is not the place to realize a certain candy bar or meal does not sit well with your digestive system. You’ll already be under stress, don’t add to it by experimenting with food you have never tried.
I plan for two pounds of food per day- 3,565 calorie average.
- 1 Mountain house Breakfast or 2 oatmeal (500 calories)
- Coffee (130 calories)
- 2 bagels (220 calories)
- 4 slices cheese (300 calories)
- 12 slices Italian salami (220 calories
- 2 packs mustard
- 3 various candy bars: Skor, Butterfinger, Snickers (620 calories)
- Pro Bar (380 calories)
- 4 oz trail mix: macadamia, almond, corn nuts, jerky (620 calories)
- Mountain House entree (575 calories)
- 3 packs drink flavoring: Crystal Light, etc.
Over the years my food has changed a ton. I no longer like protein bars or trail mix, I try to pack food that is more comfort then anything. I switch my meals up throughout a ten day hunt so I still look forward to what I have to eat the next day, instead of dreading it.
This list is roughly what an average day would be. I like to use the Mountain House meals, often I’ll roll them up in a tortilla with cheese; it fills me up a little more and tastes better.
- 2 packs of oatmeal
- 3 Nescafe French Vanilla, cream, and sugar
- Beef jerky or dried salami
- Salted stone wheat crackers
- Individual small can hummus or tuna
- Small pack sour Skittles
- Dark chocolate
- Smoked almonds
- Mountain House Entree
- 2 sharp cheddar individual packets
- 2 flour tortillas
Bolen Lewis Guiding Co.
If you’re on a low-carb high-fat diet, here's how I've done my meals for the last six years. Throughout the day I eat nuts, cheese, and pepperoni sticks. I also take one 70% dark chocolate bar per day. This setup is very light and compact, since fat is nine calories per gram and protein and carbs are four calories per gram. So, a high-fat meal plan weighs less than half of a carb-based plan. But be sure to be fat-adapted before you try this on a hunt. Research keto if you don't know what I mean. And for the record I started keto six years ago, before it became a fad diet.
This meal plan is a total of 3,158 calories:
- Home-mix freeze dried in a Ziploc freezer bag. I put 1 cup of freeze dried eggs and bacon with 2 tbsp butter. 1 tsp salty spice. (479 calories)
- 3 Tilla-mook cheese (270 calories)
- 1 cup nuts (879 calories)
- 3 meat sticks (330 calories)
- Home-mix freeze dried in Ziploc freezer bag. 1 ¼ cup meat, ½ cup broccoli. 3 tbsp olive oil. 2 tsp salty spice. (800 calories)
- Dark Chocolate (400 calories)
Raven's Throat Outfitters
I don’t eat a lot on the mountain. Most people probably won’t be able to eat as little as I do. I don’t really have a specific calorie count or number I go for each day. I make sure to drink lots of water during the day. I’m a big believer in electrolyte tabs, I use them daily in my water. I think it’s very important to keep some extra bars, jerky or trail mix in your pack—just in case the day turns into a real long one—sometimes you don’t always get back to the tent the same day.
- Mountain House Granola & Blueberries
- 1 can of tuna
- 1 Cliff bar
- Chocolate bars
- Protein bars
- Trail mix
- Peak Refuel chicken alfredo
Gundahoo River Outfitters
I’m not a big calorie counter. I just know what I need to take to keep me going. I usually have an extra pack of instant oatmeal and a protein bar tucked away for emergencies. I’m super spoiled with the horse back hunts, so as for a daily meal plan when we get dropped off to backpack it goes like this:
- Mountain House Granola & Blueberries or 1 pkg oatmeal
- Protein bar or granola bar over chocolate
- Granola bar or fruit bar
- Cliff Bars
- Peak Refuel single serve freeze dried meal
Being hungry is no fun, being hungry in the middle of nowhere while documenting a mountain hunt is a horrible experience. For me it’s not an exact science based on calorie intake, it’s more about how much fats, carbs, and sugars can I get in my body while remaining healthy and lightening my pack each day.With over 20-years of packing for trips and expeditions to over 50 countries, I know what I like and try to keep it very simple.
Consists of one freeze dried meal daily. Mountain House is my brand of choice. I’ve tried a lot of other brands over the years but I always come back to Mountain House. Variety is always nice so I pack a few different options ranging from granola & blueberries, scrambled eggs & bacon, breakfast skillet, and oatmeal. For the oatmeal I pack two individual packets of flavored Quaker Oats. These meals vary in calories and I base which one I will eat on how big of a day we have ahead of us and how hungry I am at the time.
In my experience lunch on the mountain consists of enough snacks to last until the day is finished. Everything in the lunch bag requires no effort to make and I always have something in an easy to grab location so I can eat on the go.
- One packet of either beef or bacon jerky
- 4 baby bell individual cheeses
- Chocolate cover coconut bar, one bar has 500 calories
- 2 Gel shots
- 1 Bloks energy chews
- Almonds or mixed nuts
- 1 Crackers & cheese packet
- Dried fruit mix
- 1 Whey Protein cliff protein bar
- 1 Snickers Protein Bar
Consists of one freeze dried Mountain House. Once again, I like to mix up the variety. Lasagna is my favorite so I always have a few of those in the dinner bags followed by other random dinners.
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